It is often aised that one can make the most of life’s twists and turns by creating their own luck.
But this can only be achieved when one is ready to seize opportunities as they present themselves.
Such is what befell Nellie Sallie after completing her stint as a housewife and mother by sending all her children to school.
In 2003, she felt she needed to acquire a skill to keep her busy and earn some money instead of remaining idle at home.
Armed with a Diploma in fashion and design from Dolphin College in Uganda, she joined a new company called the Textile Product Development Agency which used to train women in tie and dye.
After four months of training at the agency, she returned home to start her own business.
Having emerged the best after the training, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation retained her so that she could teach other women.
Getting the textile business started
Although UNIDO paid her salary, she quit after a two-year experience.
With Shs25,000 at hand, she invested it into a few pieces of cloth she had put together and sold.
Then, she decided to register a company in 2006 using Shs18 million which she had saved from her two-year job of training other women.
She rented a house in Ntinda at a cost of Shs1.3 million a month for three months. But being a member of the Uganda Women’s Entrepreneurship League, the association identified for her a mentor to nurture and grow her business idea.
The mentor, who later visited the shop, aised her that she did not need to hire premises to do her work because the expenses on fuel while traveling to and from work would inflate the cost of business.
The mentor aised her to use her rent for the next three months to expand her garage at her home in Luzira. This would allow her to fix 15 industrial machines and use the second garage as a classroom.
Heeding that aice helped her keep her costs of doing business low since her home has become a training centre for students.
“My market is currently in Uganda. I train for the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Organisation, Uganda Investment Authority, government and I have customers such as Serena and Sheraton Hotels,” she says.
She estimates that her monthly revenue ranges between Shs2 million and Shs5 million but the peak season comes around Easter, Christmas and the wedding seasons when demand shoots up. She also notes that in January, the demand for school uniforms tends to improve sales.
She estimates her total assets today to be in the range of Shs50 million. They include computers and other industrial weaving machines with which she says she is now comfortable opening a training centre to train vulnerable girls.
“I am already working with university girls. I have realised that most of them go out to have fun because they want money. We make ladies wear, children’s wear, interior décor and materials are bought from down town,” she says.
Her immediate plan which is already work in progress is to set up a weaving house–a huge workshop like the one in Ethiopia which handles huge orders for the Agoa market.
She says in Ethiopia the weaving house has engaged many youths in weaving handmade garments for export to the US market.
Currently, she employs four permanent workers–three girls, one boy and herself. When she gets big orders like she did in 2007 to supply 3,750 uniforms to all prisons staff across the country, she hires more artisans and these are the ones she uses as training assistants whenever she gets training programmes.
Her other prominent clients include Kampala Capital City Authority, Sheraton Kampala Hotel and Kampala Serena Hotel.
With the number of workers she has right now, she makes four or five pieces a day but with big orders, it may take a week but she makes about eight aprons a day.
Asked how she kept her business growing over the years, she says, “It has been mainly through savings and looking out for orders.”
Opportunities in Uganda’s textile sector
Lots of opportunities lie in the weaving sector and yarn because the AGOA market is open. This means local textlie dealers can export hand-woven materials which are very many.
To her, someone without much can start with a sewing machine, an over lock, a cutting and other accessories.
A word to budding entrepreneurs
Her aice to upcoming entrepreneurs is to insist on quality, hard work, and integrity and time management because most times, tailors have lost business because of lies and lack of integrity.
Her most memorable deal came from the Women Entrepreneurs in Development, a Norwegian Progamme, recently. It has Ugandan, Kenyan and Tanzanian women and recently during one of their functions, she wore a gomesi she designed herself and it attracted the attention of most of the women.
They liked the attire and made orders which she dispatched using the regional buses. Each of them sold for Shs260,500 ($100). Other products she makes from the textile materials include bed covers, children’s wear, curtains and any other products involving textile materials.
Her biggest achievement has been the financial independence she has attained which has given her the ability to independently fund her activities, look after her children and the nerve to start building a training school to train young vulnerable mothers so as to create the first ever gift shop with purely Ugandan handmade crafts.
“I am looking for land to build the training centre because wherever you go you find that the available materials are not Ugandan. One other shameful thing is that despite being producers of cotton, we have to import cotton thread from Kenya,” she says.
About the market, she is disappointed by the Ugandans’ distaste for Ugandan-made products, instead preferring inferior second-hand and cheap Chinese products compared to Ugandan made products.
The company’s biggest milestone is the ability to employ disabled people to make high quality tie and dye pieces. Through them, she has been made to accept the common adage that ‘An idle mind is a devil’s workshop.’
SOURCE: Daily Monitor